Friday, March 12, 2010

Getting the Plastic Out, Kitchen Edition, Week 1 (and a half)

So the first couple of weeks of trying to reduce (with the goal of eventual elimination) new plastic introduced into the kitchen has not gone as well as I had hoped. I had wanted to do a full inventory of the kitchen, like I did with the bathrooms, but both of the last two weekends have been fully packed. So instead I decided to take it one meal at a time, starting with breakfast.

On weekends, C and I split breakfast duty, with him making pancakes one day and me making muffins or scones the other. Our weekday breakfasts are eclectic affairs. C makes himself Ployes every single day. I have one egg and two slices of toast. The boys usually eat cereal. I bought C a 25 pound bag of Ployes mix through our co-op last month, that came in a big paper bag (rather than the five plastic bags an equal amount purchased at the grocery store would have filled) and he made his own syrup last year, so that's all in glass (he's not sugaring this year, so I'll have to buy out all of the stock of our local farmers who also package in glass). We get our eggs from friends--sometimes they come in plastic cartons, but they're re-used, and I give them back--and I bake all of our bread, so that's a pretty plastic-free process (except the yeast, which does come in individual plastic bags from the health food store, or one huge vacuum-packed plasticy thing from the co-op, the flours I buy in gigantic paper bags, the honey in a glass jar; our molasses currently is in the worst--PVC--plastic, but someone gave that to us--remind me to go on a tangent some time about how weird it is that my in-laws are always giving us random food items--I'll replace that with some blackstrap in a glass jar when it's all used up).

But now onto the cereal. I only buy those huge bags of Nature's Path flakes, that are supposed to be 60% less packaging than the boxes, but yet they are plastic bags. When C goes to the store, he stocks up on yummy cereals like Shredded Spoonfuls and Puffins (our poor kids will curse us some day when they discover Cap'n Crunch!). I determined to try and go plastic-bag-cereal-free this month, though, so I made granola. I tried feeding them only granola two summers ago, when we did the 100-Mile Diet, and it did not go over well. I was hoping E and Z's jaw muscles would have toughened up by now so chewing would not be as much of a chore. They seem to like it OK, except the walnuts I put in it (how can you not like walnuts???), but M didn't care for it at all (I think he finds it too sweet--ironically I went from feeding them cereal with no sugar to a full cup of maple syrup per six cups of oats).

So this weekend, I tried making some flakes (I know--crazy) using this recipe, only substituting corn for bran and honey for sugar.

It wasn't as hard as I expected, but definitely more time-consuming than granola, and did not yield a whole heckuva lot.

And M look one look at it and declared it to be "soggy" and refused to touch it. Plus, making one tiny batch required four sheets of parchment paper (which, I suppose is better than plastic, maybe--what is silicon anyway?--and which I will try to re-use, but still...not ideal).

Before starting this process, I thought there was no way I would get up earlier to make oatmeal or toast or eggs for the kids' breakfasts, but after spending a couple of hours in the kitchen (there were other things going on in there too--bread and crackers and nachos), I began to rethink this declaration. In any case, we're going to try to get through this month convenience-cereal free, then decide if it's worth it or not. I'll letcha know.

Now, onto the crackers. Since I was in the kitchen up to my elbows in flour, I figured why not give these crackers a try as well.

They turned out not-too-bad. No one would mistake them for Ritz, but they do have a nutty, wholesome goodness. I figured out after the first batch that I need to salt them, and the ones I rolled out more thinly came out crisper and more cracker-like. The thicker ones are kind of pie crust-ish, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. They definitely did not get any crisper with storage (and we're not even having humid weather!) but the kids seem to like them and they make a tasty, easy snack (once they're made, that is).

I do think I'll make them again, with some modifications, perhaps, like more butter. Also, I was making rye bread at the same time, and rolling everything out in the same place, so that some caraway seeds found their way into the crackers, which turned out mighty tasty, so I think that'll be the direction I head with the next batch.

Food-related purchases with plastic packaging in the last two weeks:

--At the Farmer's Market I bought one plastic shrink-wrapped goat meat salami for my dad's (shockingly belated) birthday present. And I bought a bag of local, organic, greenhouse-grown spinach. I suppose I could have emptied the bag into one of my own and handed it back, but that would have seemed rude. Plus, after a winter of no greens, man, I couldn't help but buy them.

--Shopping over the weekend with my friend, I bought a bag of these lovely pale green and lavender and white French mints for the kids' Easter baskets. When I went to hide them the cellophane bag broke and I had to try them...and ended up gobbling them down over the next few nights (they are so terrifically, awesomely, amazingly good!). At another store they had bulk Jelly Belly's. I got so excited about the wax paper bags (please don't tell me wax paper is actually plastic--or, worse, perfluorinated chemicals!!), that I bought a shockingly expensive lot of them (and my kids, who have only ever gotten organic fruit-juice sweetened jelly beans, dried papaya and yogurt-covered raisins from the Easter Bunny are going to be in shock--sugar shock!). I did resist buying this really wonderful cut paper mobile that I very much wanted for my cubicle, because it was in a plastic package.

--At the health food store, I bought many pounds of oranges and apples and lemons, all bagless and plastic-free (except those stupid annoying stickers!!). But I did buy a broccoli that was bagged and a small bag of Earth ball chocolates to keep at work. I tell you I am out of control.

--On a return trip to the health food store, I bought two bottles of spectrum safflower oil (glass, with plastic lids) and a bag of potato chips. I have no idea where this craving came from, but I just felt driven to get some salt & vinegar potato chips, and I was totally lulled into complacency by the fact that the bag looked kind of papery on the outside (while of course I knew very well it was not). And then I ate almost all five servings in one go. I'm quite disgusted with me.

Next week, onto lunch and, hopefully, the beginnings of the full kitchen inventory. Whew!


  1. I really don't get how you do all this stuff while working and raising kids. I would be impressed if you were an at-home mommy, but as it is, I am just baffled. I have one less kid than you do, and mine are girls, and so probably can go longer without getting hurt/fighting and I already get much, much, much less sleep than I truly need to, not to mention practically no exercise except in the summer/other vacations resulting in my dangerous fatness, and I cannot imagine forgoing all of the convenience crap that is sending me to hell for sure because I just don't think I can function well enough or drive my kids around if I cut the sleep allocation down to three hours a night. Are there two of you? You are my shero. Really, I think you should get some awards or something. And teach classes. Or share whatever you're taking.

  2. I agree with Lone Star Ma - and we don't even HAVE kids.

    It surprises me that an organic greenhouse would use plastic. Have you considered asking them why they do? Perhaps they'd offer some of their things in nothing so you could take it home in your own containment device.

    Where oh where did you find the bulk jelly bellies??

  3. LSM--Well that's just the point...that making nutritious, good-for-the-planet food for a family is practically a full-time job. My mission this month is to see how far I can go without having a total meltdown. Also, I've figured out how to squeeze things into the interstices of my day (e.g. while making breakfast yesterday, I heated milk for yogurt. After the kids went to bed, I put the granola in to cook while I made a pie for Pi day at work today. I did miss out on my bubble bath, but it worked out fine.)

    Sue--Yes, I agree. I get so annoyed when organic food, or recycled paper or whatever "environmentally friendly" products are packaged in plastic!!!

    And bulk jelly bellies--Treats in Wiscasset.

  4. Starting with one meal is such a great idea! I stopped buying cereal this month also as a part of the Real Food Challenge I am a part of. I have been making muffins, breakfast cookies, granola, bagels (but they like bagels with cream cheese and that comes in plastic, so no good), and I recently made protein bars that the kids love.
    Thanks for the March update! I love hearing how people are doing!

  5. I'm so impressed by your cereal making adventures. We've just pretty much forgotten about flakes and o's and all the rest and eat our toast and yogurt and oats. Just today someone asked me if it's feasible for working mother's to go plastic free. I'll send them your inspiring way to see for themselves.


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